Return to run post Covid-19

Due to lockdown restrictions there was at least four weeks where runners couldn’t run unless they housed a treadmill, at least here in the UAE anyway. Elsewhere, runners felt it was their responsibility to #StayHome, rightly so, to avoid spreading Covid 19. Home workouts for runners became the norm. Now the opportunity to run is back and I want to share with you two key 'return to run' tips to help you.

Number 1
Ditch the HIIT! Yep, I know you have a new found love for High Intensity Interval Training, the gram instructor is prob hot and you can get your workout in in just 12.9 minutes, but… these full body, ‘metabolic raising’ smash fest sessions aren’t going to compliment your running. Why? Because training for your sport should be specific and nothing is more specific to running, than running. HIIT workouts are great if you just want to be fit and healthy but runners normally run for more goal specific measures. Even 5k runners need to base their training around aerobic, steady state running. In a HIIT workout we miss out on specific fibre type utilisation, the important AMPK pathways (endurance) and development of the mechanical and neural pathways we can only get from running. These all filter down into making you an efficient and economical runner. 

'Thats ok, ill just do both…’ yes you can try, but sooner or later the mass fatigue HIIT creates will meet up with the gradual fatigue running creates and you will be as we say in the business, cooked. 

HIIT training works because you go all in, or you should be anyway. Its MAX HR, MAX effort work, if you cannot hit those sort of efforts you’re wasting your time. Aerobic run training works via showing up each day and building gradual fatigue. If you show up to run and you’re cooked from HIIT you likely won’t get your long runs done or at least won’t hold good form or stay in the right intensity zones. If you show up to HIIT and you're tired from your runs you won’t be able to hit MAX efforts or the right intensity zones and so you just set yourself down a path to burn out. You are being a jack of all trades, not a specialist and anyone who has hired an electrical plumber before knows how that works out… 

Now I realise the irony here, I host The Run Strong Podcast and am known for helping runners via strength training, yet here I am, saying ditch the ‘strength training’. Well I am not, because HIIT training isn’t strength training, it is ‘metabolic conditioning’ or repeated bouts of intensity training. With that in mind let's look at tip two.

Number 2
Lift something heavy in a hinge, squat, row and hold pattern, for 5 - 6 reps of 2 - 3 sets, 1 - 2 times per week. Now this is strength training. 
By lifting weights we can deliver the strength stimulus our run muscles need in order to gain robustness and efficiency which can transfer to running performance. Time and time again its shown that strength training helps run economy and to not have it in your run diet is like missing greens from your nutritional one.

Especially at a time where runners are returning to run after a period of time away, to get the load in the muscles for strength adaptation would require big volumes of running which we just cannot do when fresh from a period of time off. So a focused, heavier block of strength work will help put adequate enough load into the run muscles to see adaptation without the high level of fatigue we get from HIIT or the risk of overuse injuries we can get from high volume running. Now you’re excited…

I hope you don't, but you might need my four part series on how to prevent your next running injury;
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This episode of The Run Strong Podcast may also share some insight into the do’s and dont’s of strength training for runners and lastly, for a 6 month strength training program specific to runners, go to www.innerfight.com/runstrong.

Be safe out there,

Tom Walker